Long road for MLK congressional medal

Long road for MLK congressional medal
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Congress on Tuesday will honor Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King with the Congressional Gold Medal, marking the end of a decade-long process to bestow Congress's highest civilian honor on the nation's most prominent civil rights hero.

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The ceremony, also marking the 50th anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act, will feature speeches from Congress's top four leaders – Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidOPINION | 5 ways Democrats can win back power in the states THE MEMO: Trump's base cheers attacks on McConnell It's time for McConnell to fight with Trump instead of against him MORE (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellTrump’s isolation grows Ellison: Trump has 'level of sympathy' for neo-Nazis, white supremacists Trump touts endorsement of second-place finisher in Alabama primary MORE (R-Ky), House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerIt's time for McConnell to fight with Trump instead of against him How Republicans can bring order out of the GOP's chaos Republican donor sues GOP for fraud over ObamaCare repeal failure MORE (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). 

Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.), another civil rights icon, and Marcia FudgeMarcia FudgeLawmakers push regulators on how Amazon's Whole Foods deal could affect 'food deserts' Dems announce 'unity commission' members If Democrats want to take back the White House start now MORE (D-Ohio), head of the Congressional Black Caucus, will also participate.

It's been a long time coming.

In 2004, Congress passed – and President George W. Bush signed – legislation presenting the Congressional Gold Medal to the Kings, "as the first family of the civil rights movement." The honor was posthumous for Martin Luther King, Jr. who was assassinated in 1968; Coretta Scott King was expected to accept the award on the couple's behalf, but grew ill before the ceremony could take place. She passed away in early 2006.

An updated bill, sponsored by Lewis, was passed unanimously by both chambers of Congress earlier this year. President Obama signed it into law this month.

Lewis's office cited no specific reason for the long delay in presenting the award to the Kings, but suggested those championing the award simply wanted to put some distance between Coretta Scott's death and the ceremony.

"It would have taken on a sadness that I think was not part of the original motivation," said Lewis spokeswoman Brenda Jones. 

Tuesday's ceremony will take place in the Capitol rotunda. After the ceremony, the medals will be given to the Smithsonian Institution.